A civilian oversight panel that looks into allegations of misconduct against Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers began listening to witnesses and evidence Tuesday as it examines the police investigation into the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
If the Citizens Review Board determines that Chief Kerr Putney erred in his determination that Officer Brentley Vinson violated no department policy when he shot Scott, it will be the first time the board has ruled against police in its nearly 20-year history.
Confidentiality agreements have kept participants from talking much about what’s happening inside the closed session, which is expected to continue through Wednesday and possibly into Thursday, a lawyer for the board said late Tuesday.
Activists, including Charlotte NAACP President Corine Mack, say it’s time for the review board to rule against police.
In June, Charlotte’s Citizens Review Board determined that there was “substantial evidence of error” in CMPD’s decision that Scott’s shooting in September was justified.
At the time, the board agreed to hold a second hearing – which began Tuesday – to weigh more evidence from the confrontation outside a University City apartment complex.
Police have said officers spotted Scott, 43, in an SUV with marijuana and a gun. Vinson told investigators he shot because he feared for his life and the lives of other officers on the scene.
After Scott’s death, riots and street demonstrations roiled Charlotte, prompted dozens of arrests and pushed Gov. Pat McCrory to declare a state of emergency.
Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray previously ruled that the shooting was legally justified and that Vinson would not face criminal charges.
But protesters and some law enforcement experts question whether CMPD unnecessarily resorted to deadly force against a person with a traumatic brain injury that made it difficult for him to follow directions. They also argue that Scott was sitting alone in the SUV and did not appear to pose a threat to anyone.
CMPD policy dictates that officers only use deadly force when faced with “aggravated active aggression,” which includes discharging a firearm, use of a blunt or bladed weapon and extreme physical force.
Experts say it is rare for officers to face criminal charges or stiff internal discipline following on-duty shootings. They said it is difficult for commanders to second-guess officers making difficult life-and-death decisions.
After the hearing ends Wednesday or Thursday, Putney will have one week to review the board’s recommendation and tell the city manager about any action he plans to take.